Chef Kenji's Cooking Show Serves Up Gourmet GoPro POV
J. Kenji López Alt, a.k.a. Chef Kenji, is best known for the Serious Eats series + book The Food Lab, in which he breaks down the science that goes into cooking your favorite dishes. He also owns Wursthall, a popular Silicon Valley eatery in the heart of San Mateo, Calif. And most recently, he’s taken to sharing his home kitchen and cooking techniques to his YouTube channel in the Kenji’s Cooking Show series.
Kenji, thanks in part to recent shelter-in-place ordinances, has been able to adopt an almost daily posting routine. At its core, the series gives Kenji a platform so share his perspective on at-home cooking.
“At home I take a more casual approach [to cooking] because, after keeping us alive, food's main goal is pleasure, and what could be more pleasurable that letting your hands and mind take your food where you want it to go?” he says.
And by perspective, we also mean that literally because Kenji found the easiest way to film while cooking and narrating is by using a GoPro mounted to a Head Strap. It’s hands-free and, thanks to its close proximity to his mouth, it picks up the perfect audio to be edited into a quick cooking tutorial from his POV.
“I first got a GoPro HERO4 to take on vacations, so I’ve been aware of GoPro for a while,” Kenji explains. “When, I started doing cooking videos four to five years ago, the GoPro had been left out after vacation, it was around 1 a.m. and I was going to cook something, and I thought to myself, ‘I wonder what it would look like to film cooking on GoPro.’”
“I would do 3-4 times a year, and I didn’t’ think much of it until a few months ago I saw the video of me making a grilled cheese with a GoPro on my head had 5 million views.”
While HERO8 Black mounted to the Head Strap remains his favorite setup, he’s also experimented with Jaws Flex Clamps, Pole Mounts, Shorty tripods and even the GoPro MAX 360 camera. And feature-wise, Kenji says that HyperSmooth 2.0 has been a gamechanger in getting stable, watchable foodie footage, so he sets his GoPro to HyperSmooth ON and shoots at a crisp 2.7K at 30fps.
When it comes to editing, Kenji says he does the heavy-lift editing using Final Cut Pro, but he relies on the GoPro app for assistance while filming to frame up shots.
“I like to think of this more as the anti-cooking show. I don’t want any television magic; I want people to see everything I’m doing. So, I thought, ‘why not keep the phone out with the GoPro app showing.’ People are just as interested in how I’m shooting the series as much as they are interested in the food.”
From creations in a backyard pizza oven to perfecting poached eggs, Chef Kenji is keen on sharing his tips to elevate at-home meals. But his biggest tip is pretty simple: “Don’t hold yourself to too high a standard. We cook all the time, and even professionals mess up, it’s fine if you mess up. A lot of enjoying cooking is about being able to roll with the screw ups.”
While watching Chef Kenji do his thing is satisfying, it’s not exactly satiating. So, we recommend grabbing the ingredients to cook alongside Kenji, so to speak, and reap the rewards of cooking from a master chef’s perspective. Follow along on YouTube here.